In 2018, many people have heard of Lyme disease and are vaguely aware of the dangers it poses. We face a constant struggle in trying to reckon with this debilitating disease, but in recent years, it’s safe to say awareness is growing, for both patients and doctors alike. Lyme is fast becoming an epidemic, and global warming isn’t helping the situation, as it allows ticks to live longer and travel farther, and keeps people outside for more months of the year. The result is that Lyme cases across the world are going up, and with global warming continuing at an unfettered pace, those figures are likely to keep rising in the years to come. Although Lyme is the prominent disease to watch out for when it comes to tick bites, there’s also the potential, and likelihood, for co-infections.
Lyme disease serves as the ‘face’ of vector-borne infections, as it were, but the truth is that only a minority of ticks solely transmit the borrelia bacteria, which is the cause of Lyme disease. Ticks can carry multiple infectious organisms that only require one single bite to make it through to the host’s system. There is around a 60%–70% chance that a tick carrying Lyme will also be carrying a co-infection, and it is actually these co-infections which, if overlooked, can cause the debilitating symptoms of chronic Lyme to reappear, even if the borrelia infection has been treated. In some cases, they can compound Lyme disease symptoms, making them even more debilitating, or harder to treat. Worst of all, even if the Lyme infection is treated successfully, untreated co-infections can cause the inflammation symptoms to flare back up again at any given time, making it difficult for doctors to treat successfully.
When assessing a potential case of Lyme disease, it is important for doctors and patients alike to realise what they might be dealing with, and to be aware of the common co-infection threats that a tick bite poses. Herbal supplements, such as the ones produced by Make Well nutritionals, are used to support the treatment of all kinds of chronic disorders, especially Lyme disease. These all-natural products are designed to aid doctors and patients in their treatment plans, whatever infections they might be dealing with. Some of these might be the common six Lyme disease co-infections listed below.
The initial symptoms of Babesia can present as very similar to Lyme disease. They consist of a range of flu-like complaints such as fever, headaches, chills, sweats and fatigue. This infection is a malaria-like parasite that infects the blood; because of this, it can also cause a specific type of anaemia called haemolytic anaemia. More severe complications include very low blood pressure, liver problems and kidney failure, though the severity of the infection can vary from patient to patient. Babesia is one of the most common of the Lyme co-infections; it’s often treated with a combination of antimalarial drugs and a round of antibiotics, though relapses are relatively common.
Bartonella refers to tricky little bacteria that live primarily inside the lining of the blood cells. Bartonellosis is most commonly associated with cat scratches or flea bites, and is even sometimes called ‘cat scratch fever’, but recent studies have found bartonella to be common in ticks. Bartonellosis is one of those co-infections that can worsen the severity of Lyme symptoms, in a kind of symbiotic relationship. It is potentially a chronic infection that worsens over time, despite showing relatively mild symptoms in its early stages. Left untreated, it can result in neurological symptoms, and even produce psychiatric manifestations in patients.
The Ehrlichia bacteria cause a condition known as Ehrlichiosis, which kills white blood cells in a patient’s body. This is a particularly insidious infection, as white blood cells are the first line of defence the body has against infections. Limiting them can allow Lyme disease and other co-infections to run riot all over the body, while leaving the host open to further infections and complications. Some patients are asymptomatic when it comes to Ehrlichia, but others will display typical flu-like symptoms indicative of an infection. If left untreated, Ehrlichia can require hospitalisation.
Anaplasma is very similar to Ehrlichia, and presents with the same symptoms and prognosis. However, the causative agents behind these two diseases are quite distinct from each other. Both Anaplasma and Ehrlichia are extremely dangerous if left untreated, but unfortunately, are very hard to distinguish from Lyme disease, frequently leading to them being overlooked when it comes to tests and diagnosis.
Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness (STARI)
STARI is specific to the United States, where it was first identified in the south-eastern and south-central states. It is now considered an emerging Lyme disease co-infection in the US, where it is transmitted in conjunction with Lyme by the Lone Star tick. Again, the initial symptoms are very similar to Lyme disease (including a rash and flu-like complaints), but as this condition is relatively new, the long-term effects, if any, are unknown at this stage.
Chlamydia pneumoniae and Mycoplasma pneumoniae
The main symptoms of this pair of intimidating-sounding diseases is chronic fatigue. In contrast to the above mentioned diseases, Chlamydia pneumoniae and Mycoplasma pneumoniae are air transmitted and not directly transmitted by a tick bite. The bacteria that causes the disease can’t produce its own energy, and has to syphon off its host to survive, leaving the patient permanently exhausted and debilitated. It predominantly affects the lungs, and can cause all kinds of respiratory symptoms such as shortness of breath, a burning sensation in the lungs and bronchitis. The infection can also spread from the chest area to the nerve tissues, brain, muscles and lymphatic system. It’s an insidious bacteria, extremely small, and very hard for the immune system to track down and eradicate. It’s also very dangerous for a compromised immune system, and one of the most common co-infections that can present alongside Lyme.